MICHAEL DE BONO FINE ART
ABOUT THE ARTIST
I'm an oil painter with a special interest in realism. Over time people have asked me to elaborate on where I began and what motivates me. This is for you.
I was born in the Welsh valleys in 1983. I liked to draw, but I didn't show any particular talent until I was 14.
At 16 I tried out my first set of oil paints, a six tube and two brush set. I learned independently through trial and error and looking around museums.
My attempts to 'paint well' eluded me for about eight years but eventually through practice and determination I achieved my goal.
To that end I have been fortunate to have had the recognition of various art societies;
London's Royal Academy of Art selected my work in four of its summer shows. I've also exhibited with the RP, ROI, RBA, NEAC and RWA.
In 2009 the Company of Painter Stainers presented my work, 'Natural Philosophy', with two awards - the first to receive a double prize in the award's history.
In 2013, the RBA gave its Arts Trust Award for my painting titled 'Insight.
What sort of Art do I like? Impressionism, Post Impressionism and Surrealism all made important contributions.
However, the paintings that interest me the most were made during the Italian and Flemish Renaissance, often called the 'Northern Renaissance'.
In those days artists were apprenticed in their early teens. Raphael, for instance, was taught by his father, Giovani Santi, who passed away when Raphael was 11.
However, Rapahel took over his father's workshop and went on to prove himself the equal of his contemporaries; Leonardo and Bounarroti.
What's special about their work? Artists of their period painted with increasing faithfulness to the way that natural forms appear to the eye, not an easy task.
Caravaggio, Van Eyck, Memling, Leonardo, and Giorgione are some of my favorites.
The incredible naturalism that these painters achieved was not an end in itself, but a means of bringing their narrative work 'to life'.
Surpassing mere re-presentation of visual forms, these artists imbue their paintings with a palpable sense of meaning and conviction.
Whether the work was a religious or a secular one, there's a genuine gravity about them.
Caravaggio's 'Supper at Emmaus', is a good example of the former, and Leonardo's La Giocanda is a good example of the latter.
If you've read this far then you may like to know how and why I taught myself to paint.
As mentioned I always liked to draw and when I was 14 I began to draw seriously. I'd draw my reflection, my family, passersby or landscapes and I'd make copies of Old Master portraits.
After a couple of years I could draw well and I decided to try oil painting. I wanted to paint well, but I didn't know how to.
Around this time I visited Cardiff Museum and saw a 17th Century Dutch interior. Its realism and competence impressed me.
I wondered about who created it, three centuries ago, and why I rarely saw contemporary artists using similar skills.
After leaving school I visited universities, looking to find an answer from those with formal credentials.
I met some nice people, but they didn't appear to know the answers to my questions about draftsmanship, technique and composition. Some didn't care.
I talked with students and saw their work. Although many of them wished to learn technique, they informed me that it wasn't taught. Theory reigned supreme.
As a result they could talk about art but they lacked the skills to fully realise their aesthetic intentions. This was a disappointment to them which they expressed to me privately.
I thought that this must be an oversight, however, as I visited other universities I discovered the same situation.
To paint like the Old Masters was more important to me. Theory is the counterpart of practice which can be developed by working, reading and reflection.
So I decided that university wasn't the best use of my time and set out instead to teach myself.
Working day jobs while trying to rediscover the methods of the Old Masters in my spare time was a challenge.
However, my beloved lady stood by me as I painted through the nights, weekends and early hours of morning in an effort to 'paint well'.
'Synthetic Portent' at the Royal Academy of Art's London 2008 summer exhibition.
I learned slowly through trial, error and a lot of time. Eventually I felt that I may have reached my objective in 2007.
I applied with the above painting to the Royal Academy in London to see if they would like to exhibit it.
To my surprise I received an acceptance letter and an invitation. I was so happy that I literally danced around for joy. My approach to art was vindicated.
'Synthetic Portent' went on display in the Academy's 2008 Summer Exhibition and sold for £7,000. After the Academy retained its 40% commission I had just enough left to finance my next project.
To my surprise the former head of painting at the Royal Academy, Mick Rooney, wrote a letter to me calling the painting a "little masterpiece".
Later that year he invited me to make a work measuring four by five feet for 2009, featuring a similar subject, 'magic'. This was a one off.
After five and a half months, of working 70 hour weeks, I finished the painting (detail below), which is now in the private collection of a prominent collector.
Second Sight (detail) Exhibited at the Royal Academy's summer exhibition 2009
The Academy made postcard reproductions of the work in 2009 and highlighted the piece to visitors with a large written notice hung high on the wall stating that Second Sight was a 'meditation on impermanence'.
Following this I exhibited at Mall Galleries, received some prizes and exhibited regularly at commercial galleries.
Twenty five years have passed since I began my artistic practice, and I've exhibited for sixteen of those. It's been a good and interesting time.
I hope you enjoy viewing my work.